One of the gifts taken to astronauts aboard the International Space Station in supply rocket Cygnus was Microsoft’s HoloLens headset.
When Tim Peake arrives at the International Space Station today to carry out research as part of the Principia Mission, he’ll be in for a treat. Microsoft’s HoloLens headset was sent ahead on the Cygnus supply ship for astronauts to begin a series of experiments with augmented reality in space exploration.
HoloLens allows wearers to manipulate 3D objects in virtual space while interacting with their surroundings. Two of the possible uses for HoloLens aboard the station include going through ISS procedures and interacting with space equipment. Project Sidekick is a collaboration between NASA and Microsoft that aims to use commercial technology like HoloLens in assisting astronauts from ground control when they need it.
“Microsoft HoloLens is about transforming the ways you create, connect, and explore,” Alex Kipman, technical fellow at Microsoft said in a NASA press statement. “Sidekick is a prime example of an application for which we envisioned HoloLens being used – unlocking new potential for astronauts and giving us all a new perspective on what is possible with holographic computing.”
Enabling augmented reality headsets and apps for everyday use is the aim of growing Irish chip maker Movidius. Vision chips from Movidius are used in Google’s Project Tango – designed to allow headsets and mobile devices to map and model the world in real time.
Devices use Movidius low power vision chips to acquire images and it is anticipated they could be used in AR and VR headsets, smartphones and drones. Next generation chip Myriad 2 is set to be launched soon and the spec is impressive. The chip uses 12 parallel vector processors that allow it to process two teraflops of information on less than one watt of power consumption. What that means in real terms is being able to run positional, eye and gesture tracking alongside depth perception and 3D object recognition on a mobile at the same time.
“If you look at each of the main players in AR and VR,” said Movidius’ marketing communications director Jack Dashwood, “HTC, Oculus, Magic Leap, Google, Sony and Apple, we are working with four of those six to integrate our chip into consumer products in the next year.”
Skybound Entertainment, creators of The Walking Dead, has joined forces with Samsung to create the first 360-degree episodic thriller Gone. Start-up Wevr and Skybound will develop the series for Samsung’s Gear VR as a 360 video experience with interactive elements that allow viewers to search for clues. The premise behind Gone is a mother’s search following her daughter’s mysterious disappearance.
The show will be delivered in six to eight minute chunks as the production team felt it would work better in short form until people get used to VR – and probably until VR technology allows viewers to watch long form comfortably. “We had film directors suggesting feature sets and specs for an app, and we had software engineers helping sketch out best practices for shooting video,” said Matt Apfel, Samsung vice president of strategy and creative content. “Everyone checked their egos and preconceived notions at the door, because that’s the only way we could have built something native to VR.”
Californian company Meta has been a mainstay of the augmented reality scene for the past year or so. In October, Meta released a video showing its AR system in operation. See the video below:
The company runs its own blog and comments on where the big gains in AR will be realised in commercial enterprises. Meta’s list includes education, where this superb AR anatomy app from Lindsay – the virtual human – will help to teach medical students in future. It also includes construction (manipulating CAD objects in design and building plans), training (industrial simulations) and retail (everything from buying cars to crockery) on the list of big developments.